WATCH | Ndlovu Youth Choir pays tribute to music icon Johnny Clegg

Johnny Clegg at his last performance, held at the Ticketpro Dome in Johannesburg. A youth choir has paid tribute to the late musician through song and dance.
Johnny Clegg at his last performance, held at the Ticketpro Dome in Johannesburg. A youth choir has paid tribute to the late musician through song and dance.
Image: TARRYNE RAUTENBACH

In a week that South Africans collectively bid farewell to cultural icon Johnny Clegg, a choir has, in a similar manner to what the incomparable 'white Zulu' did three decades ago, raised the nation's flag and captivated international audiences.   

Ndlovu Youth Choir's beautiful melodies on America's Got Talent were the talk of South Africa and beyond, and when they secured passage to the quarterfinals of the show, the achievement coincided with news of Clegg's death from pancreatic cancer breaking.

It has been a grim week of mourning for the country, with Clegg's death following closely on the heels of renowned actress Nomhle Nkonyeni, and a duo of beloved sport stars, James Small and Marc Batchelor.

It was Clegg's death that struck a chord with the choir leader Ralf Schmitt, the music director and conductor, as well as Doctor Hugo Tempelman, chief executive of Ndlovu Care Group, the organisation under which the choir falls.

"On the day we reached the quarterfinals, unfortunately this country lost a legend. If we lose our legends we need the youth to carry on their work. The group has a lot of similarities with Clegg. He was an exceptional musician, and through his life and early engagement with music from a culture he was not born into, contributed to social and cultural activism, at a dangerous time. I see us as today's social activists to 13-million kids who are growing up under destitute circumstances, and are  without hope," Tempelman said, alluding to the impoverished community that the choir members are from. 

"The kids in the choir have shown that all the disadvantaged children too can become excellence. If they are open to receive discipline, values and norms and respect, and through hard work, they can become much more than what their current circumstances are."

Schmitt added that in addition to Clegg, the choir stands on the shoulders of other icons, ranging from Miriam Makeba, Hugh Masekela, Letta Mbuli and Caiphus Semenya.

"Johnny was a role model, an absolute inspiration for me," Schmitt said. 

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